Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bluebird and Purple Martin Updates

Bluebird Notes- This past Monday I discovered three bluebird eggs in the nestbox I set up near the camp house. This will be my third year to have this box up and so far nesting has been successful each year.

Purple Martin Colony Notes- Last week I had an disturbing observation and for the most part wished I hadn’t been paying attention. I was near my purple martin colony and begin hearing the vocalization that they emit when a predator is in their midst.

It’s funny how after so many years of having this colony that I have learned the various calls and what they mean. So when I heard this it got my immediate attention. At first I thought they were responding to the presence of our tom cat who was in the vicinity, but then I looked up to see what looked like a cooper's hawk gliding about ten foot off the ground very near the gourd racks. This is the first time I've witnessed a hawk in such close proximity to the housing. Hopefully this will not become a habit, especially during the time the adults are rearing their young. They exert an extreme amount of energy keeping the nestlings fed and cared for and the last thing they need is to be wasting most of that energy combating a predator. Immediately a conglomeration of purple martins, grackles, and blue jays began mobbing the hawk in order to get it to leave. This is one time that you’ll see all types of birds band together to attack and drive away a natural predator, whether it be a predatory bird (hawk, owl) or mammal (cat, fox, raccoon). As the hawk flew away I noticed a few martins continued to harass it even after it was well away from the colony. Suddenly the hawk plunged like a stone and when it ascended in its talons was a purple martin. Needless to say this hit me like a sucker punch. There was nothing I could do but watch and accept this very disturbing fact of nature with the thought that this bird did the honorable thing and put its life on the line and lost it to protect the rest of the colony.

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